DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham County is looking at how its young children are progressing and ways to improve their lives.

Friday morning, a new report was released showing room for improvement and challenges that lie ahead.

It found five issues: rough childhood experiences, birth and maternal health, quality of early childhood, early education, and data collection for this age group.

Duke University assistant research professor Beth Gifford said, “We have some significant disparities, and one of the areas where we’re recognizing it is only about 38 percent of children are at grade level when they enter into kindergarten and by the end of third grade only 47 percent are reading at grade level,” said Duke University assistant research professor Beth Gifford on the topic of Durham County’s education challenges. “We’d like to improve those rates because we know that if we improve those rates during early childhood that those are going to have enduring effects along through adulthood for those children.”

Durham County’s Young Children Task Force teamed up with the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy to conduct research for the report and find solutions.

Some recommendations include ensuring that infants are born healthy and have the best care available to them from the county, and for education issues, expanding the county services from kindergarten through third grade, which has been identified as a crucial time for development.

“When Durham comes together and focuses on an issue, we have seen in the past that great things happen,” said Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, who initiated the research on the state of Durham County’s young children. “We have the resources. We have the talent to get things done. We can be a model for the state and the nation by using information that we have to provide the best start in life for our children.”

Commissioner Reckhow hopes to mirror some of the success that she says Transylvania County in North Carolina has seen.

According to Reckhow, Transylvania is the first county in North Carolina to monitor what is going on with young children and their families in this fashion; Durham County is the second.

To read the full report, click here.